Why is postpartum birth control recommended?
If you are not using a birth control method, it is possible to get pregnant very soon after having a baby. Using a birth control method in the weeks after you have a baby (the postpartum period) helps you avoid an unintended pregnancy.
How do I choose a postpartum birth control method?
When choosing a birth control method to use after you have a baby, think about the following:
What are my options?
The intrauterine device (IUD) is a small, T-shaped device that your obstetrician–gynecologist (ob-gyn) or other health care professional inserts into your uterus. IUDs can be inserted right after a vaginal or cesarean birth or at your first postpartum health care visit.
The hormonal IUD releases a small amount of progestin into the uterus and is approved for up to 3 to 6 years of use, depending on the type you get. The copper IUD releases a small amount of copper into the uterus and is approved for up to 10 years of use. Both work mainly by stopping the egg and sperm from joining (fertilization).
IUDs do not interfere with sex or daily activities. Once inserted, you do not have to do anything else to prevent pregnancy. The hormonal IUD may decrease menstrual pain and heavy menstrual bleeding.
Possible risks include:
Birth Control Implant
The birth control implant is a single flexible rod about the size of a matchstick that your ob-gyn or other health care professional inserts under the skin in your upper arm. You can have the implant inserted immediately after a vaginal or cesarean birth. It releases progestin into the body and is approved for up to 3 years of use.
The implant does not interfere with sex or daily activities. Once it is inserted, you do not have to do anything else to prevent pregnancy. Almost all women are able to use the implant.
The implant may cause unpredictable bleeding. Your periods may be heavier, lighter, or longer. Some users experience infrequent periods or bleeding in between periods. Other common side effects include mood changes, headaches, acne, and depression.
Birth Control Injection
The birth control injection contains a type of progestin called depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA). It works by preventing ovulation. Your ob-gyn or other health care professional will give you a shot of DMPA in your arm or buttock every 3 months. You can get your first shot right after a vaginal or cesarean birth.
An injection does not interfere with sex. Almost all women are able to use the injection.
Possible risks include:
Combined Hormone Methods
Birth control pills, the vaginal ring, and the patch are birth control methods that contain estrogen and progestin. They work mainly by preventing ovulation. Depending on the method, you need to remember to do one of the following: take a pill each day, insert a vaginal ring every 21 days, or apply a skin patch every week for 3 weeks.
These methods do not interfere with sex. They may make your period more regular, lighter, and shorter. These methods may also reduce cramps, improve acne, reduce menstrual migraine frequency, and reduce unwanted hair growth.
Possible risks include:
Progestin-only birth control pills contain just progestin. They work mainly by preventing fertilization of the egg by the sperm. They must be taken at the exact same time each day. If you miss a pill by more than 3 hours, you will need to use a back-up method for the next 48 hours.
Progestin-only pills do not interfere with sex. They may reduce menstrual bleeding or stop your period altogether.
Side effects include headaches, nausea, and breast tenderness. Progestin-only pills should not be used if you have breast cancer or a history of breast cancer. They are not recommended if you have certain medical conditions.
Barrier methods include spermicide, male and female condoms, the diaphragm, the cervical cap, and the sponge. Barrier methods work by preventing the man’s sperm from reaching the woman’s egg. The cervical cap, diaphragm, and sponge can be used starting 6 weeks after childbirth, when the uterus and cervix have returned to normal size. If you used a diaphragm or cervical cap before childbirth, you should be refitted after childbirth.
Condoms are the only birth control method that protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Condoms, spermicide, and the sponge can be bought over the counter. Barrier methods have no effect on a woman’s natural hormones.
Spermicides can cause vaginal burning and irritation. Some people are allergic to spermicide and may have a reaction. Frequent use of spermicides (such as every day) can increase the risk of getting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from an infected partner.
Lactational amenorrhea method
Lactational amenorrhea method (LAM) is a temporary method of birth control based on the natural way the body prevents ovulation when a woman is breastfeeding. It requires exclusive, frequent breastfeeding. The time between feedings should not be longer than 4 hours during the day or 6 hours at night. LAM may not be practical for many women.
It is a natural form of birth control. It does not cost anything.
There are no health risks or side effects to using LAM. This method can be used for only 6 months after childbirth or until your period returns. It is unclear whether pumping breast milk decreases the effectiveness of LAM.
Talk with your doctor about which birth control method may be right for you.